Renewable sources generate 8.2% of all domestic energy
Prior to the widespread adoption of fossil fuels 200 years ago, renewable sources of power were the only energy sources available. Towns were built on or near rivers to take advantage of the power of running water, while wind served as the prime mode of power for water transportation. Biomass is simply a more technical name for burning wood for heat or light. Today, of course, engineers and scientists are using technology and innovation to better harness these sources. Renewable energy sources include power generated by water, wind, the sun, plants, or the Earth’s natural heat. Together, these five power sources – hydro, wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal – account for 8.2% of total energy generation in the U.S., and 10.8% of electricity generation.
Sources: U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) and America’s Energy Choices, 2012, an American Security Project whitepaper (www.americansecurityproject.org)
Wind power accounts for 2% of U.S. electricity generation
Over the past decade, wind power was the fastest growing source of American energy. From 1999 to 2009, wind experienced an average annual growth rate of 32%. Today, it accounts for 2% of electricity generation, with large-scale wind farms being installed across the country. While offshore wind farms are being rapidly deployed in some European countries, only two are in the planning process and none have begun construction in the U.S.
Sources: EIA, Electric Power Annual (www.eia.gov) and America’s Energy Choices, 2012
Fusion funding to cost $35 billion over next 15 years
Nuclear fusion — the holy grail of cheap electricity production — is getting closer to becoming a reality, according to scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. The basic fuel for fusion is hydrogen, with energy produced by forcing together the atomic nuclei of deuterium and tritium to form helium. A great deal of energy is released by this reaction: One pound of fuel in a fusion reaction is capable of yielding as much energy as is contained in 10 million pounds of coal. As of yet, the problem of how to contain the intense heat and pressure needed for a sustained fusion reaction have prevented scientists from figuring out how to design a reactor that releases more energy than is used to initiate and control the reaction. Recent advances in laser and magnetic technology have raised hopes that fusion could become a new source of electricity in the not too distant future. Scientists at LLNL predict they will be able to achieve a fusion reaction that results in a net energy gain by the end of 2012, using advanced lasers for compression and containment. That said, bringing fusion power to a commercially viable level will require significant research and development spending, estimated at about $35 billion over a 15-year period.
Source: America’s Energy Choices, 2012